Norton Critiques Republican Constitutional Amendment that Purports to Limit Size of Senate, Prohibit Future D.C. Senators

Oct 5, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), a former tenured professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, today released the following statement on the constitutional amendment introduced by Congressman Mark Walker (R-NC) regarding Senate representation. The amendment would state, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of Senators who are from States admitted to the Union prior to the One Hundred Sixteenth Congress.” (The 116th Congress, the current Congress, ends in January 2021.)

“Congressman Walker’s proposed constitutional amendment, which makes no sense on its face, shows that opponents of District of Columbia statehood are afraid of the overwhelming support our D.C. statehood bill received, even from House Members from red states, when it passed this year. This proposed constitutional amendment shows that Republicans are finally conceding that  D.C. statehood is constitutional, inevitable and only a constitutional amendment can stop it. He also understands that to change the way new states have always been admitted—by simple legislation—would require a constitutional amendment. That would require a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states. The last constitutional amendment was ratified over a quarter of a century ago.

“Walker’s amendment is incoherent because it ignores, and does not even try to repeal, the requirement in Article V of the Constitution ‘that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.’ This, of course, means that every state is entitled to two Senators unless, incomprehensibly, they agree not to have them. Walker’s amendment purports to block the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth from having equal representation in the Senate, yet it does not repeal this Article V provision.

“All of this, though, is merely constitutional speculation because, unlike D.C. statehood, this amendment is going nowhere. The D.C. statehood bill passed the House earlier this summer with an overwhelming number of Members, including those from Repubican states, and over 90% of Senate Democrats are cosponsors of the D.C. statehood bill. Momentum is on our side. Republicans should not try to impose taxation without representation directly into the Constitution.”